NFL Should Contractually Ban “Taking The Knee”
I can count the number of times on my hands – one hand, that I rose in agreement with Donald Trump. His administration’s initial, pitiful response to the human calamity in Puerto Rico combined with his flippancy in discussing it is but one reminder of the many deficiencies that accompany his governing style. His bombast and taunting of key players on international issues is another point of worry. But when he is right, I won’t hesitate to say so and when it comes to the criticism of NFL players and officials for “taking the knee” during the singing of the National Anthem, he’s actually right on.
I fully support the right of the First Amendment. One of my earliest memories of a genuine political debate was from 1990, when the U.S. Senate was trying to get 2/3 to send a proposal to the states to make it unconstitutional to burn the flag. President George H.W. Bush supported the effort. I did not.
I have zero tolerance for anyone who would burn what many Americans died fighting for (people one legislator referred to as “pond-scum”), but, it does fall under freedom of expression and as abhorant as the gesture may be, Joe Q. Citizen is fully within his/her rights to do so. But, this is different. NFL players during a game or prior to the ceremonial proceedings prior that take place right before are not Joe Q. Citizens. They are players at a gathering.
The National Anthem is nothing more than a salute to America – pride in the nation in which we live – the values of freedom, the notion of free speech. It is not meant as an endorsement of every policy, fallacy or shortcoming that exists. And yes, America is has them. We are not a perfect nation.
It seems irrelevant to note that players have been fined for expressing support, through their helmets, for causes that no one could deem controversial. Just after Colin Kaepernick first brought kneeling into the sports lexicon last year, USA Today wrote of some of the other publicity causes. It read, “If Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams again wears eye black with “FIND THE CURE” during Breast Care Awareness Month in honor of his mother who died from breast cancer, or teammate William Gay wears purple cleats for domestic violence awareness, or teammate Cameron Heyward wears eye black with the words “IRON HEAD” to honor his father who died of cancer, the league likely will fine them, just as it did last season.” Additionally, Brandon Marshall was fined $5,250 for wearing green shoes to commemorate Mental Health Awareness week. And William Gay was fined more than $5,000 for promoting anti-domestic violence). Those who decided to commemorate 9/11 were excused, but only by the skin of their teeth (that’s mighty swell of the NFL).
Part of me is inclined to think the media exacerbated this but, even when one player does it, it is news and it needs to be discussed. But was it really necessary for Jerry Jones to huddle with his Cowboys – my team incidentally to show solidarity? I guess so. Nothing takes the cake of the almighty dollar?
Freedom of speech only means that you can be free to say something without fear of getting one’s head chopped off. It should not mean that you should be permitted to blantantly disrespect your nation before an audience that is not political in any way. Perhaps the NFL must put that in the players contract before fining or otherwise disciplining them but, discipline them they shall.
The national anthem is a salute to the home of the brave. It is about the hopes and opportunities of its citizens. The song is not in anyway political. In short, we don’t sing it because of the problems we have, we sing it because of our ideals. Players can find other venues from which to express themselves.
We sing it because of what unites us, not what divides us. Because after all the struggle, our flag was still there.